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Robert Burns is the national poet of Scotland but his influence spreads much further. 
 
Writing not just in the Scots dialect but also standard English he is considered by some the first Romantic Poet capturing the mood of dissatisfaction and emerging insurrection that would culminate in the French Revolution and influence those that such as Lord Byron and Percy Shelley who would come later. 
Indeed, his unconventional views were reflected in his private life as he had numerous love affairs and sired a number of children out of wedlock. He is also credited with not just preserving but saving the folklore, songs, and literary traditions of Auld Scotland. 
 
He was born in the village of Alloway in Ayreshire on 25 January, 1759, the son of a tenant farmer and eldest of 7 children. When his father came into possession of a much larger farm as the eldest son the burden of working it largely fell upon his shoulders taking an early toll upon his health. Subsistence farming was hard graft that provided little reward beyond the requirement to put food on the table and the nightmare of poverty often loomed large. 
 
His first book of verse published on 31 July 1786 was to be an instant success however, and it was it was to be poetry not the sweat of his brow that would elevate Burns to a position of at least some comfort. 
 
Having at last received the consent of her parents in 1788, he married his long-time companion Jean Armour by whom he was to have 9 children having already sired 4 others by different women; and the many influential friends he now made, the commissions he received and the sales of his verse allowed him to provide for his large family though he was never by any means a rich man. 
 
But an elevation in status did little to change him. Sir Walter Scott, the most popular novelist of his day remembered meeting him as a boy an event he never forgot. He wrote of it many years later: 
 
[His person was strong and robust;] his manners rustic, not clownish, a sort of dignified plainness and simplicity which received part of its effect perhaps from knowledge of his extraordinary talents. His features are presented in Mr Nasmyth's picture but to me it conveys the idea that they are diminished, as if seen in perspective. I think his countenance was more massive than it looks in any of the portraits ... there was a strong expression of shrewdness in all his lineaments; the eye alone, I think, indicated the poetical character and temperament. It was large, and of a dark cast, and literally glowed when he spoke with feeling or interest. [I never saw such another eye in a human head, though I have seen the most distinguished men of my time.] 
— Walter Scott 
 
A Scottish nationalist Burns, unlike most of his contemporaries was a Lowland Scot who sympathised with the plight of his Highland brethren perhaps as a result of his travels north to collect the oral history of his country that he feared might otherwise be lost. 
 
He knew poverty and the pain of hard work undertaken for the benefit of others and never ceased to champion the cause of the common man even though his fame now saw him mixing in Scottish high society. But fame does not always translate into money and forced to give up the farm due to ill-health and with a large family to support he became an Excise Man or Collector of Taxes. It made him a conflicted man working for a Government he opposed in depriving the labouring poor of their hard earned money. 
 
Weakened by years of hard physical labour the ‘Ploughman Poet’ died of rheumatic fever 21 July 1796, aged just 37. 
 
The date of his birth, 25 January, is now celebrated every year in Scotland as ‘Burns Night’ which in some ways has come to make him appear a comfortable or safe poet which he certainly never was and it is no coincidence that similar celebrations are not undertaken in England. 
He is largely viewed today by historians as a radical and even by some as an early socialist, the poetical equivalent of the essayist Thomas Paine but if so his was a radicalism born of patriotism, a love of Scotland, of its people, of a concern for their rights but most of all a regard for their freedom: 
 
Such A Parcel Of Rogues In A Nation 
 
Fareweel to a' our Scottish fame, 
Fareweel our ancient glory; 
Fareweel ev'n to the Scottish name, 
Sae fam'd in martial story. 
Now Sark rins over Solway sands, 
An' Tweed rins to the ocean, 
To mark where England's province stands- 
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation! 
 
What force or guile could not subdue, 
Thro' many warlike ages, 
Is wrought now by a coward few, 
For hireling traitor's wages. 
The English stell we could disdain, 
Secure in valour's station; 
But English gold has been our bane- 
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation! 
 
O would, or I had seen the day 
That Treason thus could sell us, 
My auld grey head had lien in clay, 
Wi' Bruce and loyal Wallace! 
But pith and power, till my last hour, 
I'll mak this declaration; 
We're bought and sold for English gold- 
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation! 
 
A Man’s A Man For A’That 
 
Is there for honesty poverty 
That hings his head, an' a' that; 
The coward slave - we pass him by, 
We dare be poor for a' that! 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
Our toils obscure an' a' that, 
The rank is but the guinea's stamp, 
The man's the gowd for a' that. 
 
What though on hamely fare we dine, 
Wear hoddin grey, an' a' that? 
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine, 
A man's a man for a' that. 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
Their tinsel show, an' a' that, 
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor, 
Is king o' men for a' that. 
Ye see yon birkie ca'd a lord, 
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that; 
Tho' hundreds worship at his word, 
He's but a coof for a' that. 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
His ribband, star, an' a' that, 
The man o' independent mind 
He looks an' laughs at a' that. 
 
A price can mak a belted knight, 
A marquise, duke, an' a' that; 
But an honest man's aboon his might, 
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that! 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
Their dignities an' a' that, 
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth, 
Are higher rank than a' that. 
 
Then let us pray that come it may, 
(As come it will for a' that,) 
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth, 
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that. 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
That man to man, the world o'er, 
Shall brithers be for a' that 
 
To A Mouse 
 
On Turning her up in her Nest, with the Plough, November 1785. 
Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie, 
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie! 
Thou need na start awa sae hasty, 
Wi’ bickerin brattle! 
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee 
Wi’ murd’ring pattle! 
 
I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion 
Has broken Nature’s social union, 
An’ justifies that ill opinion, 
Which makes thee startle, 
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion, 
An’ fellow-mortal! 
 
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve; 
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live! 
A daimen-icker in a thrave 
’S a sma’ request: 
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave, 
An’ never miss ’t! 
 
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin! 
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin! 
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane, 
O’ foggage green! 
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin, 
Baith snell an’ keen! 
 
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste, 
An’ weary Winter comin fast, 
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast, 
Thou thought to dwell, 
Till crash! the cruel coulter past 
Out thro’ thy cell. 
 
That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble 
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble! 
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble, 
But house or hald, 
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble, 
An’ cranreuch cauld! 
 
But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane, 
In proving foresight may be vain: 
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men 
Gang aft agley, 
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, 
For promis’d joy! 
 
Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me! 
The present only toucheth thee: 
But Och! I backward cast my e’e, 
On prospects drear! 
An’ forward tho’ I canna see, 
I guess an’ fear 
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